My New Best Bread Friend

I love Maggie Glezer’s book Artisan Bread and have made many recipes from it but it wasn’t until I saw the photos and posting of the Tom Cat's Semolina Filone on the October 16, 2007 posting in www.breabasketcase.blogspot.com that I just had to try it. I’ve made it twice and will be making it again many times because it is so amazingly good. In fact, while it is baking the aroma is so heavenly it encourages one to breathe more deeply just to hold onto the marvelous scent more fully.

The second time I made this bread I only had enough durum flour left to make a three-quarter recipe and that is a lovely size too. I also find the dough more manageable at 73% hydration so have added 100 grams/ 3.5 ounces extra flour and still love the texture. Maggie recommends a combination of half bread flour half unbleached all purpose but Gold Medal Better for Bread flour aka Harvest King is about the same protein content and seems to work perfectly. Because I added extra flour I also increased the salt by 1/2 teaspoon to keep it at 2%. As Maggie points out, different flours (or methods of measuring rather than weighing) will alter the consistency of the dough so add only as much flour as will make you feel comfortable to handle the dough. This is my adaptation of Maggie’s wonderful recipe.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bake 50  to  minutes

                           Makes: A 16 x 6 by 3 inch high batard   (3/4 recipe=13 x 6 x 3)

POOLISH

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The night before: In a four cup glass measure stir together all the above ingredients until all the flour is moistened and it forms a smooth lump-free mixture. Cover tightly and allow it to ferment for about 8 hours or until the surface is filled with breaking bubbles and deep wrinkles are forming. (Note: On first try poolish was held for 12 hours at 60 in back room and then 4 hours at 80-82 in kitchen. It was just starting to wrinkle so could have been longer but worked perfectly.)

The poolish just beginning to wrinkle.

DOUGH

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Equipment

In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the flours. Add the water and with the dough hook on low speed mix until combined. Cover and allow to rest (autolyse) for minimum 15 minutes, preferably 1 hour.

Stir the yeast into the poolish and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Add the poolish to the dough and mix on low speed until the dough is very smooth and cleans the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and continue mixing for 2 minutes to incorporate the salt evenly. The dough will weigh 33 ounces/940 grams and be about 1 quart. Scrape it into a 2 quart or larger container lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover tighty and allow it to rise until doubled to 2 quarts, 2 to 3 hours. Turn the dough 3 times at 20 minutes intervals and then leave it undisturbed until doubled.

Preheat the Oven

1 hour before baking preheat the oven to 400°F. Have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it and a cast iron pan or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating.

Pour the sesame seeds onto a sheet pan. Shape the couche into a trough to support the loaf. (No need to flour the couche.)

Shape the dough on a lightly floured counter. Use a gentle touch to maintain as many air bubbles as possible. First round it lightly, cover and allow it to relax for 15 minutes. Then shape it into a torpedo as follows: Place it skin side down. Bring the top edge of the dough over all the way to the work surface and use your thumbs to seal it all the way along the edge, pushing back to form a tight cylinder.  Roll the dough over so that the seam falls at the bottom in the middle of the dough. Use the palms of your hands to roll the dough gently back and forth, allowing it to elongate to 12 to 14 inches.  Exert more pressure on the two ends to form a pointed shape.

Lift the dough onto the sheet pan and roll it to encrust it all over with the sesame seeds. If necessary, spritz the dough with water to help them adhere. Set the dough, seam side up, into the couche. (Use a retainer bar or pan set against one side of the folded couche to keep it from spreading.) Cover it lightly with the couche or plastic wrap and allow it to proof until when pressed lightly with a finger tip the depression fills in slowly--about 1 hour. It will grow to about 18 inches in length.

Use the couche to flip it onto a piece of parchment, seam-side-down.  Straighten the dough and use a straight-edged razor blade to make a 1/2 inch deep slash along the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water, quickly but gently slide it, still on the parchment onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake 45 to 55 minutes, turning the bread half way around after the first 20 minutes of baking, until deep golden. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200°F.)

Set the loaf on a wire rack and allow it to cool completely, top-side-up.